The next fall, I was driving up the expressway, and as I drove past my old exit I had the strongest sense that I could take that exit, and drive up to our old apartment, and walk back into that old life, and that old self. I kept on driving, to the self I was getting to know, and the life I was choosing, but it was such a powerful feeling that it has stayed with me all these years.
The day after my mother found out she was pregnant with me, my next oldest brother died in a car crash. He and I lived intertwined, yet separate lives. The first year of my life was the first year of their grief, and so on. He was always there, a shadow, a painfully shared memory, and every so often, someone would say "Joe would have loved having a little sister like you." And yet, until I was 15, I didn't know the full circumstances surrounding his death, and I had never seen or touched anything belonging to him. Aside from one solitary, final, school portrait that sat on my parents bureau, he was virtually erased from the family. When my parents sold our childhood home, my mother began cleaning out closets , she brought out 3 boxes of his belongings, a jacket, and letters he'd written and received. I went through these boxes and wept. Both for his loss, and for my own. I wrote him a letter and told him all about myself, and our brother and sister, and parents. For a month or so, I was deeply immersed in the fantasy of who I would have been had he lived, and how our relationship would had shaped me. It wasn't so much about what would my life have been like had it not been macerated in grief, but more about who we would have shaped each other to be. At some point, maybe few years later even, I came to know in at a very deep level that the person I am, beyond my temperament, is utterly shaped by the cataclysm of my birth and his death, and it was impossible to untangle the threads and be a different self.
When I imagine telling our children about their origins, I imagine that there will be years when it makes only passing sense to them, and then a period when it concretely makes more sense to them, and then finally when they have their own time in the wood, when they realize we have chosen the road for them, all of us, Husband, myself and the donors. We have all chosen that this is their path, and they will wrestle with it mightily. I don't have any illusion that just because I carried them in my body that they will bypass the identity crisis that is the mark of any good adolescence. What I do hope is that we can stand with them, and withstand their rage and their grief, and perhaps even periods of rejection, with grace, open hearts, open minds and when they are ready to rejoin us, open arms.
When I contemplate the pain that our children may experience because of their origins, I find myself wishing that I didn't need to do all of this to have these children. It is an odd juxtaposition: these particular children couldn't have come together except through the choices of my husband and myself and the donors, and I only want these particular children, yet I want to shield them from the any pain that will follow, so I wish it wasn't true. It is different that wishing that I didn't have to use donor gametes, but it has the same flavor--wishing that this joyous experience of carrying and loving these two babies never had to be interrupted by anything hard.
So as I drove down another road yesterday, one with no exits that offered a glimpse into the past, I found little tendrils of sadness creeping in, and I stopped myself and said "This is the motherhood I can have. The other motherhoods are gone, lost to time, lost to money and lost to the mystery of why some things work and some things don't." I felt a tremendous surge of certainty that these are my children, the only children for me. We will have tremendous joy, and deep love, and silly family stories and adventures, and yes we will have this piece to live in all it's various iterations, but my job, our job is to love each other fiercely and to be present; to be parents.
When I awoke this morning this poem was in my mind. Only the first line was there, but as I read through, the last line really hit me : I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. Yes it has babies, yes it has. Without taking the road less traveled, there would be no "you". Thank you for making a home in my body. We will do our best to make you a magnificent home in the world.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth,
Then took the other just as fair,
And perhaps having the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black,
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads onto way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence,
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And it has made all the difference.
--Robert Frost, Mountain Interval, 1920.